Russian President Vladimir Putin. AP/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service

Amid U.S. and European sanctions that are driving Russia into the arms of its Asian neighbors, President Vladimir Putin has invited the North Korean leader to Moscow next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

The invitation may figure into the high-stakes geopolitical and economic game Russia has found itself in after the imposition of U.S. and European sanctions and other global changes that have destabilized the Russian economy.

Guessing at the motives behind the invitation, Reuters reports that Moscow needs North Korean support to build a natural gas pipeline through that country toward South Korea, and that the development could mean increased Russian support for North Korean activities the West regards as repulsive and threatening.

Pyongyang is also seeking support from Russia, a permanent veto-wielding member of the UN security council, against international criticism relating to accusations of human rights abuses and its nuclear programme.

A UN committee passed a resolution last month calling for the security council to consider referring North Korea to the international criminal court for alleged crimes against humanity.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has also said North Korea is ready to resume the stalled international talks on its nuclear programme.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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